Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #110

This is the one-hundredth and tenth in a series of examinations of comic book urban legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous one-hundred and nine. Click here for a similar archive, only arranged by subject.

Special theme week! This week's theme is Osamu Tezuka's Astro Boy!

Let's begin!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: A comic character was made an actual citizen in Japan!


One of the amusing aspects of Science Fiction of the past is the way that the dates they chose for the "far-off future" have slowly creeped up on us. That was the case with Osamu Tezuka's Astro Boy (in Japan, it roughly translates to "The Mighty Atom").

Created in 1951, Osamu Tezuka set his story of a futuristic Pinnochio in the future, and had Astro Boy created on April 7, 2003.

Well, as you may have noticed, it is well past 2003 now. So how was the date celebrated?

In the city of Niiza, just north of Tokyo, where they were producing a new Astro Boy cartoon for a time, they celebrated by making Astro Boy, who strived always to be human, an actual citizen!

The mayor, Hiroko Nakayama named Astro Boy as an "ambassador for the future," and registered him as residing in the animation studio where his cartoon was being made.

Pretty cool, huh?

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: The Astro Boy name came about because NBC was afraid DC would sue them over the name "The Mighty Atom."


If you look on the IMDB page for Astro Boy under trivia, you find the following:

Originally, NBC wanted to air the show under an English translation of the Japanese title "Tetsuwan Atomu" or "Mighty Atom". However, DC Comics had a magazine at the time called The Mighty Atom, and skittish network lawyers therefore requested a name change to forestall a lawsuit by DC.

That sounded wrong to me (besides the whole no sourcing thing).

DC would not seem to have much of a standing to sue here, as they didn't have a cartoon series featuring the Atom at the time, and heck, The Mighty Atom PRECEEDED DC's current Atom series by a good many years.

So I went to animation expert Harvey Deneroff, and he, in turn, checked with Fred Ladd, the noted producer who adapted the Mighty Atom into Astro Boy for NBC, and Ladd said he did not hear that at the time (or since) and did not believe it, even pointing out the NBC executive who came up with the name, and noting that there was no mention of the comic book character in the creation of the name.

So I'm pretty willing to give this a status of false.

Thanks to Harvey Deneroff and Fred Ladd!

COMIC URBAN LEGEND: In Japan, the re-runs of Astro Boy they use are sub-titled American versions.


An interesting change in popular culture in the last twenty or so years is the realization of the creators of works today that the work they produce might very well have a lasting impact. This was not the case so much in years past, where companies like DC Comics would just literally throw out used original artwork. Imagine the treasure trove of amazing artwork just thrown in the trash!

Likewise, the storage of old television programs were often considered a luxury that was not worth it.

That situation led to the freakish occurance that is the basis of this urban legend. As you probably know, Astro Boy is an English adaptation of the original Japanese anime of the 1960s. The character was re-named and all the dialogue was re-dubbed into English (plus some other changes were made between the Japanese version and the American).

The original copies that the Japanese production company, Mushi, sent to the Americans to adapt, were held by NBC until the mid-70s, when NBC attempted to return them to Mushi.

Mushi declared that, since they were going through bankruptcy, they could not receive the copies. Therefore, NBC simply burned them.

Later on, then, when Japanese channels wished to broadcast the original episodes - they no longer existed to re-air! So all they could do was to import the AMERICAN version, and add Japanese sub-titles!

This results in some pretty poor DVD collections, too, sadly!

Okay, that's it for this week!

Feel free to drop off any urban legends you'd like to see featured!

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